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Free Liberal: Coordinating towards higher values

Free Liberal

Coordinating towards higher values

Don't Need No Veto

by Paul Jacob

Why hasn't our president, George W. Bush, used the veto more?

What we've been told is that our president prefers to work "behind the scenes" to "negotiate" what goes into law. He needs Congress to work with him, so he rarely challanges Congress outright.

But a recent article by Ron Hutcheson and James Kuhnhenn for the Knight Ridder Newspapers puts the issue in a new light.

The president recently signed the torture ban. But he did so with his fingers crossed. That is, he added a "signing statement" to the bill, explaining how he interpreted the new law. Quite broadly, in the context of his own expansive theory of presidential power.

It turns out that the president has been doing this for some time. Over 500 times. And according to one public administration professor, "In every case, the White House has interpreted presidential authority as broadly as possible, interpreted legislative authority as narrowly as possible, and pre-empted the judiciary."

Apparently these statements aren't mere Post-It note scribbles, but cleverly written legal documents designed to influence enforcement and future legal interpretation. Congress doesn't like them, to say the least. But in 2003, when Congress directed the executive to inform Congress whenever the administration planned to ignore new, signed law, the president signed with a statement adding, well, that he has a right not to obey.

Bye-bye limited and divided powers.

Common Sense is published by Americans for Limited Government. Their website can be visited at

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